When one goes to enter a store in America, there is sometimes a sign that says something like, “Shoes and Shirts Required.” Not so here. When I walked up to the front of this marvelous old building, I was greeted by a most unusual warning. There were eleven things that were not allowed in this shop. No flying, spells, fair maidens, black magic, eating (including staff), haggling, knights (shining or otherwise), groups of ogres (max 2 at a time), cursing, smoking (phoenixes – use bucket provided), and humans.
Now, the first ten restrictions were no problem, but that 11th one – now that could be bad news. Since no humans were apparently allowed in, I wasn’t sure if the portal into this place (the front door) would allow me to pass. However, I suppose that anyone who writes fantasy tales (like me) must have something peculiar in their blood, since strange stories of magical beings keep slipping out of them and onto the pages of books. So, I pushed on the door. It opened for me, and I entered.
I was quite surprised to have an elf greet me (at least that’s what she said she was, although I think she was wearing one of the “human disguises” that they sell in the store.)
The very first thing that she asked as I entered was whether or not I was magical or not. I muttered something incomprehensible, so she ushered me over to a very special scale that apparently detects what sort of magical being you might be.
I am quite pleased to report that I am not an ogre, troll, goblin, bogard, harpy, or hydra. I very nearly tipped the scale into “pheonix”, but landed on “warlock” instead. Well, that was surprising. I suppose it could have been worse – I could have gotten “gargoyle”, “wicked”, “bewitched”, or even “nymph”!
But, my new elf friend seemed satisfied, and proceeded to take me on a tour of the shop.
Now this was my first experience in an ‘Apothecary to the Magical’, so there was a lot that needed explaining. The walls and displays were filled with marvelous and strange things that I had never seen before, and which must have contained powerful magic, for I was immediately tempted to whip out my wallet and buy many of them.
One display was especially interesting, for there were items that were obviously used in cauldrons, potions, and elixirs – things like “Goblin Mucus”, “Grandma’s Scabs”, “Condensed Enthusiasm”, and others.
My guide said, “Can you believe that humans actually bathe in this stuff?” I laughed, but didn’t tell her that I secretly thought they all smelled like soap. No point in revealing just how human you really are when you’re in a magic shop where humans are banned…
Well, the tour continued, with various oddments such as “Giant Belly Button Cleaner” (which looked quite similar to a feather duster), booklets with titles like, “How to Keep Humans and Other Livestock”, “Songs, Poems, Curses”, “How to Avoid Humans”, and others.
There were also vital supplies that all magical beings require, such as “Eternal Ugliness” and “Parchment of Purification”,
“Human Disguises”, as well as items, such as “Leprechaun Wishes”, “Fairy Dust”, and of course “Rocking Horse Excreta”. Prices were quite reasonable, especially considering the rarity of some of these items.
Now one of the truly unique features of the store (and don’t tell anyone) is the “Black Market Meat Cellar.” Here you can get pretty good deals on “Fairy Cakes” (96% fairy contents – not much filler!), “The 8th Dwarf” (a bit expensive – personally, I’d watch for sales), “Flank of Unicorn”, and “Freshly Peeled Knight”.
If you’re like me and prefer Farmer’s Markets to these magical Black Markets, you can just make excuses like, “Well, the Knight looks to be a bit overcooked”, and “You know, that Unicorn looks good, but I’m trying to avoid being eternally cursed – bad for the digestion.” The elves in the store may shake their heads, but they’ll gladly sell you other things instead.
Oh, did I mention that there’s a magical item museum too? Yes indeed, and it’s complete with such wonders as the glass slipper, grandma’s glasses, Rapunzel’s hairbrush, and other extraordinary relics. Don’t worry about the cursed wand – it’s safely behind glass.
All of that is stupendously fun, but this apothecary also holds an even deeper secret. Hidden away, in a place where only true believers (like children) can go, is a mystical chamber where the real magic happens. Through a secret doorway, you just might be able to pass into a realm filled with what I call thin places. Linger long enough, and you may be swept away on a grand adventure through the pages of a book written by a little girl or boy. Any good story can become a thin place through which you can pass if you simply suspend disbelief.
You see, in this special place, children can come and hear strange tales told by the elves, read books that draw them into far away lands, and most importantly, write their own stories, and have them published on the magical presses of Grimm & Co.
The magical beings of Yorkshire, old Mr. Graham Grimm among them, have developed this marvelous charity that champions the writer in every young person (ages 7-18) through the joyful discovery of story. It is a place that is truly unleashing imaginations, and well worth supporting.
I hope that one day I’ll get back to 2 Doncaster Gate in Rotherham, UK, and take my family with me. I’d love to see what magical beings they weigh in as!